How to overclock your CPU

At times your system might test your patience with its speed. This is usually a problem for graphic designers and gamers. Perhaps you always want the job done before you even blink. If you can’t afford or are not willing to get a faster PC then overclocking may be the option for you.

Overclocking to put simply is a way of getting an extra bit out of your system’s performance by increasing your processor frequency in order to increase its processing speed.
Overclocking might be quite risky and it isn’t really for everyone. So if you’re not a gamer or into graphics design or any other activity that requires very high processing speed you really don’t need to stress yourself and PC. Also if you’re the type that can’t handle possible occasional crashes, do not bother overclocking.

Overclocking may be done for both the CPU and the GPU and there are many factors involved in the process. However, we are only going to talk about the fundamentals of overclocking the CPU in this post so as not to make it too boring and with this, you’re good to go.

There are some things to note before starting with overclocking your CPU

  1. Overclocking reduces the lifespan of your PC.
  2. Not all systems can be clocked. To know if yours can be clocked, you can check if the BIOS (motherboard) and processor type (for example; Intel® Core(TM) i3-5005U CPU) accepts clocking from your system’s documentation or online.
  3. The more you overclock the more the voltage needed to power the CPU and this increase in voltage causes more heat to be generated which might damage your components if the CPU gets too hot. This is the reason why overclocking is always done slowly and multiple times. Make sure your system temperature is not higher than 80°C while overclocking. You can get a better cooling fan, heatsink if you don’t want your system to get to this temperature quickly.
  4. No two systems even if they have the same components will have the same overclocking capability.
  5. It is not advisable to overclock Laptops because of its poor cooling system. However, manufacturers sometimes include automatic overclock frequencies in the BIOS setup which may be safe to choose from for both desktop and laptop PCs although they might also make your PC unstable meaning they are also not always perfect.
  6. Overclocking can be done by either increasing the clock rate or the multiplier or both. For example, a processor rated 2.0 GHz might have its clock rate as 100MHz and multiplier as 20 (100MHz x 20 = 2.0GHz), we can decide to overclock by increasing the clock rate to 150MHz and multiplier to 30 giving 4.5GHz. Using the multiplier is usually more effective however some motherboards do have the multiplier locked making it impossible to increase it.

13 Steps to overclock your CPU

  1. Install a Benchmarking program like Cinebench, blender benchmark or Prime95, and a hardware monitoring program like HWMonitor or Core Temp to monitor CPU temperature and voltage.
  2. Run an initial stress test with any of your benchmarking program and a hardware monitoring program to check temperature and voltage and note the test scores after it has stabilized. These results will be compared with the results obtained after every overclocking exercise. For Prime95 select just stress testing > Blend Test > OK. Check for about 5 minutes then select Test and Stop.
  3. Shutdown or restart your system and press the delete button before your PC boots into the OS to enter the BIOS setup. The BIOS setup button may be different in some PCs so you have to know which button takes you to your PC’s BIOS setup.
  4. In the BIOS setup navigate to the overclocking tab which may come in different names like Extreme Tweaker, AI Tweaker, OC Tweaker, etc.
  5. You can then begin to overclock. You can do this by either increasing the base clock or the multiplier or both. Whichever way you want to do it, make sure it doesn’t lead to a very high frequency change at once (Remember the mathematical illustration above). You can do a 10% increment for the first try and a 3% increment for the subsequent ones.
  6. For every overclocking try you make, save changes and boot up your PC. Once you’re in Windows run the stress test (it should give a higher mark than the previous one) and check the temperature to make sure it has not yet reached the limit (preferably 80°C). If you’re using Prime95 for your stress test, you can do this by selecting Options > Torture Test > Blend Test and leave for about 5 to 10 minutes for stability.
  7. As long as the temperature limit hasn’t been exceeded, you can keep increasing the frequency gradually and carrying out stress tests after every overclocking attempt until your PC becomes unstable or crashes. Once this happens, it is most likely to mean the processor isn’t receiving enough voltage so you may have to increase the voltage in the BIOS or reduce the memory multiplier.
  8. Before attempting to increase the voltage, try reducing the Memory Multiplier first, it is sometimes called the Memory Ratio or DDR Memory Frequency in some BIOS setup. If your PC refuses to come up due to a crash reset your CMOS. If you do not know where the reset button is, check your BIOS documentation or online.
  9. After reducing the memory multiplier to probably it’s minimum (you can set to minimum on the first try), open your benchmark program and perform a stress test. If it is stable then you may overclock again till it becomes unstable or crashes. When this happens then you will have to increase the voltage.
  10. Open the BIOS and find the Voltage settings. Locate CPU Vcore Voltage (or any name similar to it) and increase the voltage by 0.02V. Save your changes and try to start up your PC again. If it doesn’t work the first time try a successive increment of 0.02V.
  11. Once your PC starts up again, run the stress “torture” test and also check to make sure the temperature has not exceeded 80°C. Remember an increment in the Voltage raises the PC temperature faster than any other increment and may damage components if done excessively. If it is stable, you can overclock again.
  12. It will get to a point that even an increment in Voltage will not make your PC stable. If this happens after increasing the voltage for say the third time, you should opt to reduce your processor frequency by reducing either the base clock or multiplier rather than increasing the voltage again since you are not yet a pro at this.
  13. After striking a balance, run the stress test for about 8 to 24 hours to ensure that your PC can remain stable for a long time and your CPU can be said to be at its highest safe capacity at this level.

Remember that there might be occasional crashes but this should not happen frequently.